Gun Control Proponents Against Ergonomics

In the coming days, a lot of you are going to be having conversations with friends and family, and I think it’s important to get your facts right. I see a lot of people saying the AR-15 is no more deadly than a handgun. In a mass shooting scenario, tactics matter much more than the choice of weapon. The Virginia Tech mass murderer, the worst mass shooting in history until Saturday, managed to do that with two ordinary handguns. But it’s not quite accurate to say a handguns and rifles are equal in lethality.

Bullet for bullet, rifles are generally more powerful and thus more deadly than handguns. It is accurate to say that the AR-15 no more or less lethal, bullet for bullet, than any other rifle chambered in the same caliber. It is accurate to say that the .223 Remington / 5.56x45mm (NATO designation) is a medium powered cartridge.

So what makes the AR-15 different? As a rifle goes, it has fantastic ergonomics. I have a lot of different rifles of military pedigree, and the ergonomics on most of them are pretty terrible. Even the venerable M1 Garand is pretty awful ergonomically, even though it’s far more powerful bullet for bullet than the AR-15. If I had to pick a military rifle that I would rank on my “enjoy shooting” list, the M1903A3 would probably rank not too far behind my AR-15s, and ahead of the M1 Garand.

The ergonomics of the AR-15:

  • The pistol grip makes it easy to control
  • It’s low recoil impulse, due to aligning the barrel with the stock, makes it easy to bring the sights back down on target.
  • Easy to understand sights (even easier if you use one of the newer holographic sights).
  • Intuitive safety (selector in the military M16/M4)
  • Intuitive drop free mag release. You can have another magazine in your hand coming up when you drop the emptied one.
  • Intuitive bolt release to slap the bolt carrier home once the magazine is inserted.

It is very easy to teach an untrained person to land accurate shots with an AR-15. I’ve seen people go from awkward to landing decent shots with just a few hours training (and I’m a horrible trainer!). In addition to the ergonomic features, proper ammunition won’t over-penetrate and risk hitting bystanders. This is why police departments have almost universally adopted the AR-15. This is why it’s become the standard in NRA high-power competition and 3-gun competition. This is why the AR-15 is now chosen often by civilians for home-defense. It’s also, unfortunately, why mass shooters choose it. The features that make the AR-15 easier for a novice to shoot accurately also make it easier for mass killers, most of whom are novices. There is probably some role that the media plays in suggesting it’s “the mass killer’s choice,” but that’s the truth of the matter. Could using a shotgun be more deadly? Sure. But the recoil of a shotgun is punishing, and the ergonomics of most shotguns aren’t remarkably good. I almost never bring out shotguns for novices unless they express a specific interest in shooting trap or skeet.

I think we rest on pretty firm ground to argue that firearms should be easy for novices to use. Unless you’re a seasoned competitive shooter, most gun owners, most police, and most people in the military are novices. They can exercise a base level of competence and safety when running their firearms, but Annie Oakley they are not. We should not be banning semi-automatic rifles, which truly aren’t especially more deadly than other semi-automatic rifles, just because they are easy for novices to use. This gets back to the base argument of gun control vs. gun rights: should arms belong only to the special elite, or is it a birthright of all citizens?

17 thoughts on “Gun Control Proponents Against Ergonomics”

  1. This is an issue I’ve been trying to refine for ages. Most non gun owners really don’t care about details. Not because they are anti gun, but because guns don’t interest them. I knew a person who collected pre-revolutionary war thimbles. This person could go on for hours about thimbles. I never knew there was so much minutia about thimbles. I really didn’t care to hear it either.

    That’s how non gun owners listen to gun minutia, and why they just assume assault weapons are bad.

    After experimenting with different approaches, and explaining that assault weapons are baased on the shape of the gun. Never mind features, at least early on in conversations.

    Guns are tubes with a trigger and a hammer. Around this tube is a stock made of wood or plastic. Its the shape of the wood or plastic that determines if a gun is banned or not, and not the gun part itself.

    More details follow if they are interested, but this seems to get the point across.

    1. Yeah, I would agree with that advice. I’ve generally found people are willing to entertain some minutia if you don’t ramble on and on. The only difference being that it’s differently shaped is certainly true, but the purpose for that different shape is ergonomics.

  2. “But if bad ergonomics could save just one life…” An anti-gun rights veteran friend who served in the 82nd Aurborne has argued that AR-15s should be banned from civilian ownership because the pistol grip makes it more deadly.

    1. That’s just patently nonsensical, other than it makes it easier to shoot the rifle, which as I say is a good thing.

      Yes, you’ll get plenty of people who will always come down on the side of “you shouldn’t have one.” You won’t convince those people.

      1. I’ve been reading over the last few years that the pistol grip is ergonomically valid for sustained 3 round burst and full auto. These same sources pointed out that semi auto rifles with a traditional style stock ala FAL and Ares SCR can be faster to bring to aim and have the advantage of having the sights much closer to the bore.

        The SCR is smaller, lighter (5.5lbs with iron sights), less snag prone and probably easier to conceal assembled or disassembled than your run of the mill Colt 6920. It is semi auto and can take standard AR mags. But yet you can register one in NYC without the slightest difficulty.

        So is this a ban on all semi auto rifles they want if the same evils deeds can be accomplished with the 6920 or the SCR? I still remember this from the NY Post from 2013:

        If we have to give up our SCR’s how long before my Ruger Scout automagically becomes a “military style sniper rifle”?

  3. “should arms belong only to the special elite, or is it a birthright of all citizens?”

    I’ve often argued along those lines, but with a slightly different tact. I point out how some of the ‘evil’ features, namely pistol grip and adjustable stock, make it accessible to people of different size than the average male. For example, my 5′ 7″ wife can use the same firearm as 6′ 2″ me, with only the quick press of a button, no gunsmith needing.

  4. Another thing about the AR-15 is that it is inexpensive. Due to the design which makes it easy to manufacture and large manufacturing volumes of the components, a basic AR-15 can be bought new for noticeably less than competitors.

    1. Interesting. Mother Jones (who I will not link here) is describing it, as usual, “a weapon of war”. Non-standard platform and pricey.

    2. A black MCX profile pasted next to an AR profile means nothing to most. Fag or bisexual, you’re just a cocksucker. But only worse, as a bi, you encroach on a heteros sacred territory.

  5. In the early 90’s, I bought a shotgun with a pistolgrip stock. Not too long after that, I had to remove it, and buy a standard style stock, since that pistol grip put it into the category of an “assault weapon” in CA’s last ban (’94?) This means I can’t shoot it righthanded, since I suffered an injury of my wrist that limits it’s mobility. Same thing for any other long gun. Where’s the ADA support for people with my disability? Yeah, right…

  6. Unless it turned out to have been a level action carbine or something else equally far removed from an actual AR-15, it really doesn’t matter whether it was an actual AR-15, an MCX, or a Glock and a P99. It’s still a self-loading rifle that accepts detachable box magazines. It wouldn’t matter if this was a mass stabbing and the stabbing had been done with a bowie knife or a short machete, either.
    Looking at a picture of an MCX, without being told, I might have casually assumed it was an odd-looking AR-15 clone. (Looking closely, the lack of the gas tube in the stock are means it cannot be using the AR’s operating system)

    In short, the difference is the kind of thing Sebastian noted doesn’t mean anything to anyone you’re likely to be discussing things with.

    1. I dunno, if someone says “Yet again an AR-15 decided to shoot up a bunch of people blah blah blah” I think it might be worthwhile to point out that it wasn’t an AR-15, if only to force them to check their assumptions. Just as if the push was to ban machetes, and their latest example to support that push was a steak knife or a screwdriver, I think it might be useful to point that out.

      But we seem to be getting suckered into arguing the minutiae of different weapons used in these terrorist attacks instead of focusing on the actual cause, which is Islamic extremism (or more accurately, Islamic fundamentalism). I’d bet there are a lot more violent Muslim radicals who became gun owners in this country than gun owners who became violent Muslim radicals. But it seems that people are more focused on creating a perfect world where terrorists don’t use guns and instead use things like the pressure cookers used in the Boston Marathon bombings. Because guns – and only guns – are the problem, or something.

      1. It’s in the same class of weapons. If it had been a brace of pistols, or a shotgun, or a flamethrower, or a machete, it’d be worth pointing out the difference.

        But there is no functional difference between an AR-15 and an MCX at the muzzle end, at least not one that is relevant to the discussion. It’s like saying there’s a difference between a Honda Civic and a Mazda Miata when it comes to driving drunk. There are, but the differences don’t matter.

        1. An MCX isn’t an AR-15, just like a Mini-14 isn’t an AR-15. They’re all different weapon systems with different designs, and I don’t see the benefit of letting them use a Mini-14 or an MCX to further demonize the AR-15. We might as well let them call everything a Glock while we’re at it. Words matter, just like we call out when they claim that semi-autos are machine guns. At the muzzle end, a semi-auto or machine gun doesn’t matter all that much, right?

          So yeah, suckered into arguing the minutiae of different weapons used in these terrorist attacks instead of focusing on the actual causes.. Good job.

          1. terrorist attacks instead of focusing on the actual causes.. Good job.

            My point, exactly. For policy purposes, the differences between one variety of semi-automatic, box-magazine-fed, scary black rifle don’t matter.

            See the first comment to this post, and Sebastian’s response.

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